Are We All Racists?

I'm Michael Shermer novelists offer deep insights into human psychology that often takes psychologists years to test in his 1864 notes from underground for example the Russian novelists Fyodor Dostoyevsky observed every man has reminiscences which he would not tell to everyone but only his friends he has other matters in his mind which he would not reveal even to his friends but only to himself and that in secret but there are other things which a man is afraid to tell even to himself and every decent man has a number of such things stored away in his mind intuitively the observation rings true but is it true experimentally twenty years ago social psychologist Anthony Greenwald mahzarin banaji and Brian Nozick developed an instrument called the implicit association test the IAT that they claim can read your innermost thoughts that you were afraid to tell even yourself and those thoughts appear to be dark and prejudiced we favor white over black young over old thin over fat straight over gay able over disabled and more I took the test myself as you can google project implicit the race task first asks you to sort by pressing keys black and white faces into one of two categories European American and African American that's simple next you're asked to sort a list of words joy terrible love agony peace horrible wonderful nasty into either good or bad also easy then the words and the black and white faces appear on the screen one at a time for you to sort into either African American good or European American bad the word joy for example would go into the first category while the white face would go into the second category this sorting process goes noticeably slower finally you're tasked with sorting the words and faces into the categories european-american good or african-american bad distressingly I was much quicker to associate words like joy love and pleasure with european-american good than I did with african-american good the test assessment of me was not heartening your data suggests a strong automatic preference for European American compared to African American the interpretation is described as automatic preference for a European American if you responded faster when European American faces and good words were classified with the same key than when African American faces and good words were classified with the same key does this mean I'm a closeted racist and since most people including African Americans score similar to me on the IAT does this mean we're all racists the project implicit website suggests that it does quote when we relax our active efforts to be egalitarian our implicit biases can lead to discriminatory behavior so it's critical to be mindful of this possibility if we want to avoid prejudice and discrimination close quote well I'm skeptical first unconscious states of mind are notoriously difficult to discern and require subtle experimental protocols to elicit second associations between words and categories may simply be measuring familiar cultural or linguistic affiliations associating blue and sky faster than blue and donuts does not mean that I unconsciously harbor a pastry prejudice third negative words have more emotional salience than positive words so the IAT may be tapping into the negativity bias instead of prejudice fourth IAT researchers have been unable to produce any interventions that can reduce that alleged prejudicial associations a 2016 meta-analysis by Patrick for sure and his colleagues published on the Open Science framework examined 426 studies on seventy two thousand and sixty three subjects and quote found little evidence that changes in implicit bias mediate changes in explicit bias or behavior close quote fifth the IAT does not predict prejudicial behavior a 2013 meta-analysis by Frederick Oswald and his colleagues in the journal Personality and Social Psychology concluded that quote the IAT provides little insight into who will discriminate against whom close quote for centuries the arc of the moral universe has been bending toward justice as a result of changing people's explicit behaviors and beliefs not unfairly now implicit prejudicial witches through the spectral evidence of unconscious associations although bias and Prejudice still exist they aren't remotely as bad as a mere half-century ago much less half a millennium ago we ought to acknowledge such progress and put our energies into figuring out what we've been doing right and do more of it thank you for watching check us out at skeptic comm and support our mission to promote science and critical thinking at patreon

33 thoughts on “Are We All Racists?

  1. You are flown to the middle of a vast salt lake by a helicopter and dropped off. In the distant you can see people. Hundred meters to your left you see a group of black people. And hundred meters to your right you see a group of white people. Where do you go first, and what is your ethnicity?

  2. Everyone does have predijuice it is when you conciously fail to see them as human or lesser person is when racism is the case
    Some minorities readily use predijuice as an excuse for antisocial behavior and a lot of educated folks are usually unable to admit mistakes to begin with let alone they might have flaws in their thinking due to any biases

  3. …and I am skeptical of the skeptics here, since sexual assaulter Shermer has an obvious horse in the race, since HIS implicate bias test came out positive with high degree of reliability.

  4. Oh no I hate black people!so the test implied…Off to diversity training,better kneel to the anthem now to correct it.BLM everybody!

    "Implicit bias" that term get's thrown around allot at Salon and Huffpo,and with redtellowblue haired social science majors you see blocking intersections and vandalizing stuff.

    What I question is not testing bias but raising the point as a point in itself.What about context?-we are subjects and agents of evolution and group think,group survival strategies are real things as is in-group preference.

    FE I account for my scoring based on in-group preference and the fact I've been punched in the head by perfect strangers-who were black,like the mob of people who punched my friend in the face,stole his bike and attacked my other white friends all for kicks and free stuff.Like the guy who shot my coworker in the head with a pistol for the offence of defending his sister being harassed(sexually) by another black man.Like the two men who beat my freinds neighbor(father of two children)into a coma for asking the fellas to keep it down please so his kids could sleep…ya know stuff like that,the stuff the political left likes to white wash and excuse.I've also befriended many black coworkers who were nothing but ordinary and decent to me.I would say I have the perfect "bias" based in reality as a survivalist mindset as well as possessing an evolutionary selectivity awareness no matter what some SJW test or "Skeptic" spokesman says.

    "Skeptic"lol.You notice these folks don't originate thoughts,they're more like hall moniters for existing ones,often poorly reasoned ones.

  5. This analysis, while convincing, feels flawed. I can't help but recognize that with your place in this world, as a white male, you might be unaware of the fact that while you may share some of the same racial prejudices that African Americans share against whites, their prejudice could not lead to oppression, the way that yours could. Furthermore, the comparison to how far we've come as a nation, seems to be through a very ethnocentric lens. There are many countries that are still continuing to practice the racist astrocities, that you made sound, far behind us. I'm afraid, focusing on the good simply isn't good enough, when prejudice and discrimination still finds it's way into all of our institutions. While you make some strong points about the IAT testing negativity bias, and how difficult it is to discern the unconscious; I can't help but feel that the actual motivating factor on your end, is redemption from your test score. Ignorance is bliss right?

  6. Great video, superb writing on this one Michael. You managed to work in all the high-level "Nerd Speak" very naturally.

  7. Let us take a look at a line from your video: "Although bias and prejudice still exist, they aren't remotely as bad as a mere half-century ago, much less half a millennium ago." Half a millennium ago was the Dark Ages. I would hope we have progressed since then. As for progress in the past half-century I would be inclined to agree with you until Donald Trump made the speech that kicked off his presidential campaign, complaining about Mexicans being rapists and murderers and demanding we build a huge border wall to keep them out. That is what is called White Supremacy and White Separatism, reflecting the views of Neo-Nazis. Hillary Clinton complained about the deplorable people who support Trump. In fact, tens of millions of racists helped elect Trump to be the current U.S. president. Bias and prejudice aren't as bad as a mere half-century ago, they are worse! Half a century ago whites were open about wanting to be separate from non-whites. Now they are subtle. Realtors talk to white buyers about "spotty neighborhoods." "You don't want to move there." Your local school has lots of black kids? Your kids will have to attend a private school for white kids. You don't want black kids bullying them, selling them drugs, and lowering educational standards. That test you object to indicates you may have subconscious biases. Even the most hard-core white liberal probably has some, but that white liberal (I'm one of them) has to be careful to recognize such impulses as being irrational and avoid acting on them in any way.

  8. Bias and prejudice  will always exist even if everyone ends up the same color in the future. their are good prejudice and bad. one example is a preconceived thought. a prejudice that nuns are good people and would prolly not pickpocket you. you do not know this person but you are judging them because of a habit and robe.

  9. I took two different of these Implicit Association tests, and took them multiple times. I got different results upon repeating the tests, sometimes showing less bias and sometimes showing more on subsequent tests. And to the best of my ability I tried not to think consciously at all during any of the testing and even deliberately did not think about or understand exactly how the test worked until after taking it, in order to minimize consciously or unconsciously affecting the outcome.

    This tells me that these tests are inconsistent and unreliable at best.

  10. The quality of so much social science is suspect, especially when they use surveys while giving words arbitrary metric values, to make conclusions which are massive logical leaps. They are rarely testing what they are claiming, like when they claim they are measuring sexism by showing test subjects pornography, which is simply testing discomfort in a highly artificial situation, but these people don't care, because garbage is rewarded, justifying their own existence in academia, while scamming the grant system.

  11. The association between the signifiers "Good" and "Bad" with Black and white is spatial and therefore arbitrary. This says nothing.

  12. Excellent video! In my "quest" for total materialism and getting rid of the most possible beliefs, an important thing I've always done is do my best to read myself without bias, when I'm in cogitive dissonance, how fast I realise it, what are my mental defenses, to what extent I'm too introvert or priviledged to not act as I say people should, and be honest about it. Same about skin colors, prejudices, physical attirance.
    I'm a far-leftie who'll never go manifest on the streets, pro-veganism that don't want to take the time to eat correctly and replace meat and the rest, less progressist friends of mine could and did date fat girls while as a complete feminist (anti-postmodernism, get that trigger down^^) I'm still bound to capitalist beauty criterias, and I'm active on youtube on debates for cognitive gratifications it provides (and you're also doing it for that reason if you answer it^^).
    The key point to begin to be honest with yourselves is that we're all innately like that, and that people who'd think I'm pathetic have at much blind points biases as this, whether they realise it or not.
    Then, being an open-minded leftie and having a genuine interest for science are also important, because you can't be honest about yourself if you're ethnocentric, as ethnocentrism implies to idealise your ingroup in order to reject every problem to the others, the "weaks", weak minded too (and an "open-minded" and curious leftie is important, if the right is based on ethnocentrism on itself, many of the left is also pretty much victim to score high on it too…).

  13. so what… we need to be always in contorol, and never to behave instinctivly in order to avoid to be racist… MIND CONTROL ALL THE TIME…

  14. You're completely missing that it doesn't make a difference if the racist associations are inherent or cultural. We would assume that, since we see bias in the test in African Americans against African Americans that these are at least partially cultural norms that are being shown. We can probably assume that these are partially cultural, due to environment, and partially due to inherent tribal behavior that we evolved to have. Most behavior seems to have both environmental and genetic components.

    Also, the test does not ferret out "cultural witches." It shows consistent bias, at least as far as I've understood, with nearly everyone. Collective guilt makes everyone innocent.

    I think I see motivated reasoning here. Yes, we have a more egalitarian society than we had 60 years ago, but when Martin Luther King, Jr. was marching in the streets one could say the same thing. Blacks had much more opportunity in the 50s and 60s than they had 60 years earlier. King railed against incrementalism.

    If you want to trust people, the best thing you can do is find out where their biases are, and you have biases in favor of free-market conservative economic policies, and the solutions going forward for a more fair and equitable society do not lie in that direction. Multiple studies showing inherent, systemic bias against women and people of color. We don't fix these things with less regulation.

  15. didn't you know? your implicit bias test is aimed to reveal how you are the wrong kind of human who must be fixed or discarded

  16. You were determined to be moderate not strong on the results shown

  17. Be careful there, Mike, you're treading on SJW territory and I don't think they're going to like what you're saying. o.O

  18. As presented here, the IAT is an amateurish study design.
    All that the test is measuring is task learning: the second set of black-bad/white-good sorting categories occurs after previous task training sets, so will of course be a faster task.
    The IAT is a test of task learning.
    That says nothing about the implicit bias of the test subject.
    It says a great deal about the implicit bias of the test designer.
    They have designed a test that demonstrates everyone’s task speed increases with learning, and have inferred that everyone is racist.
    That such bias-laden study design and interpretation can be taken to be scientific at an Ivy League university, shows just how far the field has fallen from the scientific methodology.
    It is extraordinary that such study designs were actually published in the peer-reviewed literature.

  19. Thank you for this quick summary. I remember taking the implicit bias test in AP Psych, and I always thought it just literally did not make sense. The entire movement to try and root out implicit biases within society seems dangerous and unfounded.

  20. I found on the test it was much easier to make out the faces of black individuals than white individuals. I ended up focusing on the noses mostly, since there was a significant difference in size between the noses on the black faces and white faces, I never noticed that before. If they had thrown in mixed race faces it would be significantly harder and possibly give you a different result.

  21. simple answer: no.
    long answer: racism is the theory that a certain ethnicity is correlated with born traits. not more. if we decide to value one of these traits different then others, its discrimination. racism without value IS fact. africans have other muscles and are therefore faster, koreans dont smell bad, whites can have red melatonin and blue eyes… the problem starts, when people beginn to missinterpret the word race and argue that there wouldnt be a difference between heritages, even thou there IS an dna difference. is it big? no. should it matter in every social part of life? no!
    if we stick to psychology, there is the so called "cross race" effect, meaning that we have more problems to differentiat people the less they look like us. its easy to see your kid in a crowd, but harder to locate how many asians, blacks, caucasians… are within. thats only a simple drive of our ancestors to keep with the herd. that doesnt mean we cant overcome that, but we should look at it sober and adult.

  22. Good skepticism! Also notice that of two lengthy sorting regimes, the one that evidences anti-black bias is done second, after you've improved proficiency in sorting faces and words. And if you do the second sorting task faster, that indicates anti-black bias. Really?! On its face, demonstrating a faster speed in the second round of a new type of task is predictable due to a learning curve.

  23. If you accept that white privilege (which is just a neutral or positive group association) exist, and that white people can't help but benefit from it, then you have to accept its inverse, which is a negative group association that can't be personally avoided. The subconscious is just a probability calculator, it evolved this way because the odds are that people that play the odds will do better and live longer than those that don't see, or ignore negative associations. If the negative association is strong enough it won't even inform the conscious mind of its decision before it administers a shot of adrenaline and sends you off. It is even capable of feeding your an appropriate hallucination, so as to ensure compliance to this unconscious decision. The subconscious doesn't care where it got its information from, it could be personal experience or anecdotal, it's all factored in to the calculation. So, unless you know a way to fool the subconscious, the only way to erase negative group associations is to make them false.

  24. That's easy for you to say……

    "Acknowledging progress and figuring out what we've been doing right and do more of it" sounds like some deflective bullshit. I am reminded of a video on this channel that claimed that lynchings in the U.S. ended long before they actually did. How about dismantling what you've been doing wrong and why you keep doing it? How do you benefit? Why won't you let it go? Look in a goddamn mirror, call a thing a thing and STOP BEING RACIST. Evolve.

  25. I can agree that everyone has bias and that bias is against the unfamiliar and different and race fits into those categories.
    It takes little personal effort to overcome these inherent biases if one is wont to do, but conversely it takes a strong community effort to strengthen them.

  26. Have you thought about hiring some programmers to test the honesty of these online psychological tests? For example, what if you wrote a bot that would answer the survey questions randomly and even the random answering bots were considered bigots?

    You would have a bigger news story then for your magazine.

  27. Thank you for providing the meta-analysis findings. They will be very helpful.

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